Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports

Patriots 17, Giants 12: 10 quick thoughts from final preseason game

Ryan Hannable
August 30, 2018 - 10:05 pm

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The preseason is over and it’s now time for the regular season.

The Patriots closed out the preseason slate with a 17-12 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium Thursday night. Rookie quarterback Danny Etling made the play of the game with a 86-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

It was a game of mostly backups with starters spending the night on the sidelines.

Here are 10 (really) quick thoughts on the game.

1. The majority of the starters did not play at all in the contest. In fact, here are 34 of them who went through an aggressive pregame warmup and didn't play: Julian Edelman, Tom Brady, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Riley McCarron, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, James White, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, Brandon King, Brandon Bolden, James Develin, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Dont'a Hightower, David Andrews, Joe Thuney, LaAdrian Waddle, Shaq Mason, Danny Shelton, Trent Brown, Dwayne Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Rob Gronkowski, Malcom Brown, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy and Adrian Clayborn. These players would appear to be on the 53-man roster, as players who do not play in the final preseason game typically make the team.

2. It was an up-and-down night for Etling, who looked better as the game went on. He struggled in the early stages with several poor throws and decisions, but seemed to gain more confidence in the second half. He seemed most comfortable when the play broke down and he was forced to escape the pocket and make a play on the run. Overall, the rookie went 18-for-32 with 157 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while also adding 113 yards rushing on five carries. His 86-yard touchdown run was the highlight of the game. He also showed tremendous toughness with his feet, always trying to get the extra yard and didn't shy away from any contact.

3. Jason McCourty played 2.5 series at safety before coming out at the end of the first quarter, but then returned in the middle of the third quarter. Nothing really came his way, so it was hard to judge how he played. Jordan Richards saw a little bit more action, but not much. In the second half, after an injury to A.J. Moore, both McCourty and Richards went back into the game on different series. Moore returned in the fourth quarter so both players were then really done for the night. It really is hard to say how the Patriots view both McCourty and Richards, although Richards does have extensive value on special teams.

4. The player who did the most for himself was J.C. Jackson, as the rookie cornerback had two interceptions. The Maryland product entered the game on the bubble, but it’s going to be hard to keep him off the roster given his play-making ability. Also, he saw time on special teams, which is another good sign. Jackson did leave the game with dehydration in the third quarter.

5. New England rotated a lot of offensive linemen in and out throughout the game. It seems the final two roster spots at that position will come down to the final day and the team wanted to see as much as possible, including players at some different positions. It would seem two spots will be had of the following: Ted Karras, Ulrick John, Cole Croston, Matt Tobin, James Ferentz and Brian Schwenke. From this viewpoint, Karras is a lock and it’s worth noting John left with a foot injury. The last spot may come down to Croston and Tobin.

6. On the defensive line, Vincent Valentine played late in the game, which is not a good sign for the third-round pick. Adam Butler started and played well in his limited playing time. After a solid preseason, he seems to have earned a spot. Keionta Davis still seems like a wild card, as he started once again, but hasn’t been able to make plays with his time. Derek Rivers played a good amount, but that just could be a case of him missing all of last year and the team wanting to get him a few extra reps.

7. At wide receiver, it was mostly Devin Lucien, Paul Turner and K.J. Maye. McCarron was part of the intense warm up group, while Berrios warmed up just before the game like he was going to play. The Miami product had missed the previous two games for an unknown reason. Right now, pending the addition of another receiver, it appears McCarron will be on the team as the fourth receiver.

8. Cyrus Jones handled his kick and punt return duties well, but then was in the game as a third cornerback in the fourth quarter, which isn’t usually a good sign. It is worth noting he missed all of last year and the team could be wanting to get him some extra work, but on the flip side why did that occur so late in the game? He remains on the bubble.

9. In terms of notable players who played into the fourth quarter, besides Jones and Valentine, Marquis Flowers was another player who saw extended time late in the contest. Flowers hasn’t done much all summer and it would not be a surprise to see him cut. Valentine is a candidate for the practice squad if he doesn’t get claimed.

10. Like in most preseason finales, Bill Belichick changes things up and has coordinators sit in the press box and the next guy in line calls the plays. On offense, Josh McDaniels sat upstairs and allowed wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea to call the plays with assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski being more involved in the game on the sideline. On defense, Brian Flores still called the plays, but it’s worth noting this was the game he called the plays the last several preseasons.

Related: Clues on Patriots 53-man roster came before game